Fri, Sep 14, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Politicians criticize Australian girl for protesting anthem

The Guardian

A nine-year-old Australian schoolgirl has been targeted for condemnation by prominent right-wing politicians after she refused to stand during a rendition of the national anthem, arguing that it airbrushes Aborigines from the nation’s history.

Harper Nielsen’s parents said they were proud of her for the protest, which earned her a detention — and reportedly the threat of suspension from school, but the child was attacked by politicians, including Queensland State Senator Pauline Hanson, the leader of the right-wing One Nation party.

“Take her out of school,” Hanson said in a video posted on Facebook, in which she also labeled Nielsen a “brat.”

She attacked the nine-year-old’s parents, saying: “I tell you what, I’d give her a kick up the backside.”

Her choice of language was echoed by Jarrod Bleijie, a shadow minister in the local parliament and a member of the center-right Liberal National Party of Queensland.

The politician claimed the child’s parents were “using her as a political pawn,” called her protest “silly” and demanded that she “stand and sing proudly your national anthem.”

“Refusing to stand disrespects our country and our veterans. Suspension should follow if she continues to act like a brat,” he wrote on Twitter.

Nielsen told local media the Australian anthem marginalized a whole section of the nation’s population.

“When it says Advance Australia Fair, it means advance the white people and, when it says ‘we are young,’ it completely disregards the indigenous Australians who were here before us for 50,000 years,” she told 9NEWS. “I’m not someone who just obliges by the rules of older people just because they’re older.”

She did so as a wider debate goes on in Australia over the suitability of the anthem’s lyrics.

Last year, there were calls to introduce a version that gave greater recognition to Aborigines.

Her protest also drew comparisons with US sportsman Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the US national anthem to highlight social and racial injustice in his nation.

The campaign group Recognition in Anthem said the reference to Australians as a “young” people “excludes those Australians whose ongoing culture and connection with our land is not young at all, but ancient.”

It says the lyrics were “written in 1878, in the colonial era.”

On Wednesday, Nielsen’s father, Mark, told ABC radio: “She’s shown incredible bravery in wanting to stick to what she believes in and to make a stance for what she believes is right.”

There were reports the school had threatened her with suspension and her mother, Yvette Miller, said: “We were surprised behavior such as a passive non-participation might be considered in the same realm as something like bringing a knife to school or being violent towards others.”

The Australian Department of Education released a statement saying “at no time” did the school threaten to suspend or exclude her for refusing to take part in the national anthem, according to 9NEWS.

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